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Nelson Cruz and Baltimore Orioles Reportedly Agree on 1-Year Contract

Veteran right fielder Nelson Cruz has reportedly signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes:

Brittany Ghiroli of confirmed the deal:

Cruz was one of the top hitters on the open market and projects to make a real impact in the middle of the order for the Orioles. 

The 33-year-old has a career batting average of .268, an on-base percentage of .327 and a slugging percentage of .495. He’s racked up 774 hits, 489 RBI and 157 home runs since breaking into the majors back in 2005.

The nine-year veteran was extended a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, but he opted to test the market.

At the time, general manager Jon Daniels told Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News:

It’s a relatively easy decision. We’d be happy to have him [Cruz] back on a one-year deal. And we’re not prohibited from continuing to talk to him while he sees what the market is. If he signs elsewhere, we get a draft pick that helps us as well.

The Orioles know exactly what they’re getting with Cruz: a consistent hitter who has averaged 27 home runs per season since the 2009 campaign.

The Dominican native is also prone to missing time, as he has only once competed in more than 130 games in a single season during his career.

Cruz notably missed 50 games due to a suspension during the 2013 season, accepting the ban due to his alleged involvement in the now-infamous Biogenesis scandal.

He completed the suspension and was activated for the Rangers’ one-game playoff against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he went hitless in the 5-2 loss.  

Given Baltimore’s need for another big bat in a lineup that only had inconsistent pop outside of Chris Davis and Adam Jones last year, it’s a great signing for the O’s, assuming he can stay healthy. 

The Orioles once again have designs on contending in the incredibly competitive AL East, and Cruz gives them a massive boost in getting there. They went 93-69 in 2012 but fell to 85-77 in 2013. 

While he doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot, and he can’t help a questionable pitching staff, Cruz’s presence will certainly help Baltimore against the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays. 

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Roy Oswalt Retires from MLB After 13-Year Career

Longtime MLB pitcher Roy Oswalt is hanging up his glove after a 13-year career and heading over to the business side of baseball.    

According to a tweet by ESPN’s Buster Olney on Tuesday afternoon, the three-time All-Star will be working with his agent, Bob Garber, during a post-playing career:

Brian McTaggert of confirms that Oswalt and Lance Berkman will retire as Houston Astros:

Oswalt also shared his favorite memory from his career with McTaggert:

Oswalt finishes his tenure in the majors with 163 wins and 102 losses, most of those coming during his time with the Houston Astros. He began his MLB career with the club in 2001 and will end it there as well.

According to Daniel Gotera of KHOU 11 Sports, the club confirmed that it would be seeking one-day contracts for Oswalt and former teammate Lance Berkman so that the pair can retire as members of the team.

The 36-year-old Oswalt pitched for Houston from 2001 to midway through 2010, helping guide the team to the World Series in 2005, where they lost in four games to the Chicago White Sox. He earned NLCS MVP honors that year, pitching 14 innings in two starts against the St. Louis Cardinals and compiling an ERA of just 1.29.

Oswalt’s career figures are also impressive, as the 6’0”, 190-pounder racked up 1,852 strikeouts and posted a 3.36 ERA. He made three straight All-Star teams from 2005 through 2007 and led the majors in ERA in 2006.

The right-hander was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the midst of the 2010 season. He pitched there for two seasons before closing out his career with stops in Texas and Colorado, respectively.

While Oswalt never won a World Series during his lengthy MLB career, he’ll always be remembered as one of the more effective pitchers during that time.

He had a five-pitch repertoire and great control for much of his career, while also being regarded as one of the quickest workers—a trait that kept his fielders engaged and opposing hitters unsettled.

Then-teammate Michael Young had heaps of praise for Oswalt during their time with the Texas Rangers, as the third baseman told Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram: “Having Roy Oswalt is a huge shot in the arm for our team. He works extremely fast, keeps the defense involved, great tempo, and we’re excited to have him.”

It’ll be quite interesting to follow Oswalt’s career into the post-playing era. Agent Bob Garber has a quality list of clients, and his staff could definitely use a class act like Oswalt lending a helping hand in the bullpen.

Major League Baseball and its fans should sincerely miss Oswalt and wish him the best in his future endeavors. Considering his experience and wealth of knowledge of the game, he should have no trouble making a smooth transition and finding even further success.

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Matt Thornton and New York Yankees Reportedly Agree on 2-Year Contract

The New York Yankees have reportedly come to terms on a two-year deal with relief pitcher Matt Thornton.

According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, Thornton will make $7 million over the life of the contract.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that Thornton will have to pass a physical:

This move bolsters the Yankees bullpen with another veteran arm, although one that has noticeably declined in recent years.   

As per Yankees beat writer Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal, Thornton has lost some zip on his fastball:

Jason Collette, a baseball writer for Fangraphs, Rotowire and other publications, pointed out that some of Thornton’s advanced stats look troubling:

Regardless, the Bronx Bombers needed some depth in the pen and have to be hoping that Thornton improves his game while playing in pinstripes.

The left-hander hit free agency after winning a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013, although he wasn’t active for their postseason run.

He is the second player to defect from the current champions to their American League East rivals, joining center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed a massive seven-year, $153 million deal on Dec. 7. Manager Joe Girardi recently talked about the addition of Ellsbury, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:

I think we’ve acquired a great player. We’ve seen the damage he can do against us. We firsthand witnessed how he can change a game. I’ve seen him hit home runs to beat us. I’ve seen him steal home to beat us. I’ve seen him do it all, make great catches. So we added a great player.

Prior to his short stint in Beantown, Thornton played most of his nine-year career with the Chicago White Sox. He was traded in July in exchange for outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs and cash considerations.

He broke into the majors back in 2004 as a member of the Seattle Mariners and pitched there until Chicago acquired him via trade in 2006.

The 37-year-old compiled a 3.74 ERA with 30 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP in 60 appearances in 2013, 20 with the Red Sox and 40 with the White Sox.

It will be interesting to see if Girardi can find more use for Thornton than Red Sox skipper John Farrell could when the pressure was on.

He was regarded as a top left-handed reliever in all of baseball for much of the past decade and may be able to jump-start his career in the Big Apple.

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Jacoby Ellsbury Reportedly Signs 7-Year Deal with New York Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the top free-agent talents on the open market, has reportedly signed a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees.

New York Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand had the news:

Feinsand also added more detail:’s Bryan Hoch notes that there’s an option for an eighth year as well:

Boston Globe reporter Pete Abraham offered additional info:

The veteran center fielder is coming off one of his best—and most healthy—seasons in recent years, capped off with an epic World Series victory.

In 134 games during the 2013 campaign, Ellsbury compiled a batting average of .298, an on-base percentage of .355 and a slugging percentage of .426.

He had 172 hits and 53 RBI in that same span, along with a respectable nine home runs and an eye-popping 52 stolen bases.

The seven-year pro is probably best known for his elite speed, allowing him to cover ground in the outfield and steal bases with ease. He’s also one of the game’s best leadoff men and proved that he can come back from injury in a big way this year.

Ellsbury’s best season in the majors came in 2011, when he captured both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards, plus made the All-Star team.

While the Yankees will be hoping that he can stay healthy—something that hasn’t exactly been a given during Ellsbury’s career—he should make an immediate impact at the top of the lineup, as a baserunner and in the outfield.

With career totals of 865 hits, 314 RBI, 241 stolen bases and 65 home runs, the 30-year-old Ellsbury has already put together a stellar body of work and only promises to build on that in New York.

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Boston Red Sox Clinch American League East with 6-3 Victory over Blue Jays

The Boston Red Sox are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team clinched the American League East title—its first since 2007—with a 6-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

It’s been a long road back to respectability for the Red Sox organization, as they had to overcome numerous trials and tribulations to return to the postseason, let alone capture the always-competitive AL East crown.

Boston’s 2010 campaign was marred by various injuries, while the 2011 season saw one of the biggest meltdowns in baseball history—18 losses over Boston’s final 24 games—losing out on a playoff spot on the final day of the season. The team’s top players were traded in the midst of a tumultuous 2012 season, and controversial manager Bobby Valentine was fired after overseeing a 69-93 record.

It turns out that the team brass made the right decision dumping Valentine and bringing in John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays, as is evidenced by their success this season.

The Red Sox have a great opportunity to advance deep into the postseason, much as they did six years ago—the last time they won the race for the AL East. Boston won its second World Series in four years back in 2007, a good omen for this year’s group.

This year’s team has plenty of talent at a multitude of positions, but does have a reason to worry. If star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury struggles to return from a fractured bone in his right foot, it could throw a wrench in the club’s plans of advancing deep.

However, this squad has been resilient if anything in 2013 and seems capable of making a magical run deep into the fall.

Baseball is back in Boston, and it’s something fans aren’t going to want to miss over the coming weeks. This team worked hard to rebuild and move on from the fried chicken and beer scandal that plagued the roster as recently as two years ago.

The 2013 AL East title signifies the dawn of a new era for the Red Sox, an era that could herald in the organization’s eighth World Series title next month.

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Andy Pettitte Will Retire at End of 2013 Season

Andy Pettitte has pitched in the major leagues for 18 years, but his career is coming to a close. The veteran pitcher announced that he would retire at the end of the season on Friday, per the Yankees’ Twitter feed: 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post had the scoop that the New York Yankees left-hander was reportedly planning to announce his decision to retire on Friday afternoon:

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